Posted in Birds, Hiking, Park visit

Birding at Blacklick Woods on New Year’s Day

On New Year’s Day we went on our first hike of the year: a birding hike at Blacklick Woods Metro Park. About twenty people joined a park naturalist, Colleen, for the two-mile hike. If you’re beginning birders like us, it’s really helpful to join up with a group such as this. On a number of occasions the naturalist or other members of the group pointed out birds that I’m sure I would have missed otherwise. We also learned some of the places that certain species of bird like to frequent, so when we are out by ourselves we can fall back on our new found knowledge.

Juvenile, red-tailed hawk experiencing his first winter

Some of the members of the birding group

The weather on New Year’s Day was chilly but the sun shone in a bright, blue sky. Although many species of bird have migrated south for the winter, we can still view local birds who over-winter in Ohio, plus birds from the Great White North who spend the winter with us to enjoy our (relatively) balmy weather.

Berries help sustain many birds during the winter, and we particularly enjoyed seeing a woodpecker happily munching away on poison ivy berries. Although the berries would be toxic for humans, they are a nutritious treat for birds. Although I didn’t get a good picture of the woodpecker, below are a couple photos that I took previously of birds enjoying the off-white, poison ivy berries.

Cardinal snacking on poison ivy berries
Yellow-rumped warbler eating poison ivy berries. These berries remain on the vines most of the winter and are important food source for birds and small mammals. But just like the leaves and the vines, the berries are toxic to people.

Thickets are also a good habitat for birds. Brier thorns make it difficult for predators to seize them.

Male cardinal perched amidst the briers

The hike took us along the Beech Trail and onto a maintenance path that paralleled the gold course. We saw many common Ohio birds including cardinals, robins, tufted titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, house finches, crows, sparrows, bluejays, and goldfinches.

This trail leads to the more primitive maintenance trail.
Edge of the Blacklick Golf Course, adjacent to the park — It’s important that park visitors don’t walk on the greens.
Male house finch
This round cardinal is maximizing the insulation properties of his feathers by fluffing them up to create lots of air pockets.

The highlight of the hike was a close view of a juvenile red-tailed hawk camped out on a tree overlooking the golf course. This bold fellow was undisturbed as our group walked around his perch so we could see him from both sides. We also saw a large nest of atop a pine tree on the golf course. Colleen said it could possibly be a hawk nest, but added that Great Horn Owls sometimes take ownership of such nests, and since these owls are apex predators in the bird kingdom, there’s not a whole lot the hawks can do about it.

When we first caught sight of this juvenile, red-tailed hawk, he was backlit and difficult to see against the sun. Happily he was so unconcerned about us that he let us walk around to view him from the other side as seen in the topmost photo of this post.
Large bird nest, possibly built by a hawk

Later we spotted an barred owl flying away from the group. We eventually caught up with it again. He looked at his ease as he perched in the crook of a tree.

Barred owl perched in the crook of a tree. I would never have noticed him through the twigs and vines if another member of the group hadn’t pointed him out.

At the end of the hike we ventured over to the nature center. The Blacklick Woods nature center features a wide expense of one-way glass windows overlooking numerous bird feeders and a pond. The feeders were crowded with various species of birds, plus squirrels happily munching on whatever seeds dropped below.

Blue Jay at one of the feeders
Cardinal munching on seeds from the feeder
Fox squirrel eating seeds that have fallen from the bird feeders

All in all, a very enjoyable hike and a fun way to start the year.

Additional information
  • TrekOhio: Blacklick Woods Metro Park — Our description of this central Ohio Metro Park, including its location.
  • TrekOhio: Franklin County Parks & Nature Preserves — This is the county where Blacklick Woods is located; check out this page for links to the official site and for information on nearby parks and preserves.
  • TrekOhio: Birding Resources — Our collection of links to websites, articles, maps, and videos related to birding in Ohio. Points to information on birding hotspots, organizations, events, and more.
  • TrekOhio: Winter Hike Calendar

More on Birding

© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and 2012 to 2021

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